Am I Stuck With This Boring Project?

Dear Dora: Stuck with a boring projectDear Dora,

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow working on ssr markers in mulberry.  The work is a bit monotonous, which is causing me to lose interest in the field. I love basic research and would like to transition to a more interesting project or field, do you have any advice for how to move forward?

– Mahadeva, postdoc


Dear Mahadeva,

Many studies reach a repetitive and tedious stage, prompting researchers to take another look at their research and career goals. Since you are already a postdoctoral fellow, you have more freedom than graduate students to try different projects. At the same time, however, it is a good idea to see projects through until publication, particularly in this competitive job market.

My suggestion is to assess your current study and to determine how much time you have invested so far, and how much longer it would take you to publish your data. If there is an end in sight, it is probably worth finishing your study, so you can demonstrate to your future employers that you have the perseverance to complete projects. I would also recommend talking with your supervisor to see if there are other projects in your group that you could do simultaneously with your current one. That way, you could finish what you have started while also exploring other areas.

The decision to move to another group or field depends on your financial situation. If you have your own funding, you need to check whether it is project specific or if you could take it with you to another group. If your supervisor is sponsoring you, then you would need to contact other professors to see if they could support you if you joined their group.

If you get along with your supervisor and the field is generally in line with your career goals, it is usually a good idea to explore all options in your current group before switching to another one.


Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to [email protected] and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!


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2 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. Sean

    wrote on December 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Mahadeva,

    Talk with your boss. As a postdoc, I suspect you have a skill set that is beyond repetitive and tedious work and should bring in some help if possible. I have found that undergrads and graduate students can enjoy repetitive work initially since it is builds their confidence and basic lab skills.

    Your happiness is what matters. I wouldn't work for a company that wants people that are willing to persevere, but are miserable. I think you are heading there since you say you love basic research, but are losing interest.

    All the Best.

  2. Is Joining Two Labs Twice the Fun? | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on December 22, 2010 at 5:16 am

    […] Am I Stuck with this Boring Project? […]

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